Rewind a couple of months back, I was distraight to discover that a server update had disrupted my template, wiped out all my photographs and basically undone years of hard work. I spent sleepless nights searching for solutions on wordpress forums and fantasizing about a miraculous band-aid to make it all better. Weeks went by, I was ready to throw in the towel.
It was just a blog, I thought. Tant pis.
But you see, it isn’t. Shanghai is one of the most amazing cities in China. Even after four years, I still spend the bulk of each weekend photographing the city’s hidden heritage architecture and talking to people, drawing out quick confessions and meandering stories. Some of the characters I have met reinforced cliches while subverting them at the same time. Others share stories so personal and complex, I had difficulty conveying on the blog.
I’ve been marking off shikumen housing around the city to see how many I can cover before most of them will eventually be demolished. Created by foreign planners in the early 20th century who combined Western elements of Art Deco and Neo-classical design so seamlessly with Chinese interior sensibilities, it has come to define a way of community living and identity for the older generation of Shanghainese and now migrant workers. I suppose you could say that shikumen and lilong housing are a historical footprint in Shanghai’s urbanisation, and that footprint is fading.
The blog has changed the way I have viewed and experienced Shanghai since arriving a few years ago. From the amateurish eagerness executed with heavily desaturated photos to overly dramatic prose, they reflected my mood and relationship with the city, one that has evolved over time.
I couldn’t bring myself to close this blog and chapter in my life. So I rolled up my sleeves, researched a new design layout and worked with a small team that helped me rebuild the site. Over the course of the last few weeks, I’ve re-uploaded most of the photos, tweaked and re-tweaked the site till the wee hours of the morning, over lunch at the office, and sometimes in my dreams. We’re not at 100% yet but we’re getting there.
Long story short, I hope you like the blog’s new lease on life.
Do me a favor and share this with a friend. When they ask you what the blog is about, you can tell them, it’s one side of Shanghai.